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Facebook Open Graph

The Facebook Open Graph logo

It used to be that a successful interaction with your customer was one where they would then tell a friend. Now, due to social media, and Facebook’s Open Graph system, you can tell your customer’s friends for them. The Facebook Open Graph system and API gives companies and entirely new way to attract new customers, all by leveraging the the social “graph” of an already loyal customer.

The Problem

You have a site with content or products that your certain others would find interesting if only they knew about what was there. Your customers are loyal but word of mouth isn’t bringing in much business. But the Internet is supposed to be all about connections. So how do you leverage this active customer base to attract new people to your site?

The Social Solution

There’s been a lot of talk about leveraging social media to attract new customers, either through extremely well targeted ads to getting “decision makers” to post about your products to entice potential new customers your way. But both involve some continued amount of expenditure, either through an advertising budget or through courting these “decision makers” to post about you in the first place.

Neither is an ideal solution.

While there are no doubt some social success stories out there, they are also much like the seventeen year-old first time, best selling novelist: the exception and not the rule.

But Facebook offers an interesting alternative that demonstrates real results. Open Graph.

Open Graph

Open Graph is Facebook’s name for how they model data and user interactions with that data. Seen a blog with either Facebook comments or a “like” button? That’s Open Graph. Leaving a comment charts that users interaction with that piece of content. Liking is exactly the same. But Facebook charts each in its own way to map the social network graph of information. This is how Facebook is able to target advertising so well, it keeps track of every user interaction with every piece of content–be they timeline posts, article likes, blog comments, and so on–to map a very specific graph of what that user (or potential customer) might be interested in.

Fortunately for businesses wanting to take advantage of this technology, Facebook offers a way for businesses to get a peek at this data and that’s by creating your own custom graph “Objects” and “Actions”.

An Open Graph “Object” is most easily described as a single piece of content, be it a blog post, a product, or an Instagram or Punk or Metal image. This is represented by a single page with some custom tags in the header. For blog posts, this is exactly how Facebook tracks likes and comments for a site using their built in plugins. They’re easy to add to a page but end up providing a wealth of information.

An “Action” is what the user does with the object. So that if the object were a product, an action might be as simple as “liking” it to adding it to their cart to purchasing it. Custom actions can all be defined within an “app’s” control panel to represent any one of these situations.

Thus, when a reader or customer interacts with an object, this can now be sent to Facebook to be represented in the Open Graph.

Benefits of the Open Graph

The main benefit of integrating Open Graph interactions into a website or mobile app is that each action will be represented on that customer’s timeline so that there is the potential all of their friends will see it. This eliminates the need to court supposed “decision makers” because, while one friend might be trusted for restaurants, an entirely different friend might be trusted for their taste in fashion or reading.

By using Open Graph, you eliminate the uncertainty of whether the person speaking is the person trusted. Everyone now speaks for you and those within their circle that trust them become new potential customers little additional work on your side.

Additionally, the cost of implementing an Open Graph solutions is dwarfed by the high cost of targeted advertising. One ad may be shown a million times, but how much is that single click costing? And what is its value? With Open Graph, the post appears on the user’s timeline like everything else and is shown to their friends at zero extra cost after implementing the solution in the first place.

But, perhaps the best reason to use Open Graph is that, once the extra information has been added to your pages and the “Actions” defined, beyond ensuring that the actions are used judiciously, there is no downside to its use. These posts may catch no ones attention but then this is reported via Facebook’s toolset and can be later adjusted.

Imagine it, targeting an existing customer’s group of friends through automated, free posting to their timelines on the largest social network that exists.


With 42 Solutions own iOS app, Punk or Metal, we integrated the Facebook Open Graph deeply into the user experience.

After the first month, with only about 100 downloads, we already had an audience seeing our Open Graph posts 11,064 of times. We also received 106 number of referrals (0.96%) back to our micro-site to view the photos that were commented on. Given that each page has an App Store link, every one who clicked through has the potential of becoming a Punk or Metal “customer”.

Not only that, but because Facebook has the age and gender of every one of their users, were were able to tell that 61% were male while 37% of our users were female and received a general age breakdown. If we were attempting to sell a product to new customers, this would be invaluable demographic data about who is already interested in us.

Lastly, for effectiveness purposes, we’ve also been able to see that of 11,064 of impressions, we’ve only had zero “spam” reports and zero “blocks” by other users seeing these feeds. And by ensuring that those numbers stay low, we have continued to ensure the overall effectiveness of the Open Graph posts being sent.


The numbers above may not be massive–they’re taken from the first month of our app being publicly available but without any promotion as sort of an “open-beta” but they demonstrate how just a small number of posts can reach a wide audience with an equivalent click through rate to online advertising but without the costs.

By using Facebook’s Open Graph technology, even a small site can take advantage of the power of social networking without incurring a major cost. In fact, based upon our own tests, this is far more useful than buying targeted ads since the post meets the following criteria: it’s from someone that’s already trusted, it’s showing something that’s of obvious interest to the poster, and it has the potential to hit viewers tangentially where targeted ads might miss a potential customer group.

We’ve seen it with our own projects and that of our customers and have the numbers to prove it. How can we help you take advantage of social networking?

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42 Solutions

Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.